Forging Through the Snow to Get to the Wine – Class

By Brandon HENSLEY

Forget the grapes of wrath – wine enthusiasts had to fear the weather Saturday morning, Feb. 26.

The snow had not yet fallen – that would come several hours later in the Foothills – but a cold and rainy weekend nevertheless forced the Stonebarn Vineyard Conservancy to move its winemaking class from Deukmejian Wilderness Park to the Dunsmore Park community room.

But never mind the weather – learning was still had.

The Conservancy held its second class on all things wine for a group of around 15 people. Led by president Stuart Byles, it lasted about two hours. Inside the community room, as people warmed up with hot coffee and cookies, they were informed on the most suitable times of the year and environments to grow grapes, and certain diseases vines can get.

Byles said the impetus of these classes is “To involve people in understanding wine and the role that wine has played in western civilization.”

During the class, Byles referenced several books he thought were important, including “The Winemaker’s Answer Book” and “The World Atlas of Wine.” The classes, which will run once a month for about eight months to coincide with the year-round harvesting of grapes, are a part of a program with the City of Glendale Community Services and Parks Department, which also holds first aid classes and a class on wilderness survival.

“We meet the public’s needs or requests. Some of that is in our natural areas of programming. Some is cultural, and some is historical, and that’s where this is fitting in,” said Russ Hauck, senior park naturalist for the department.

Winemaking has deep roots in the area. European immigrants, including George Le Mesnager, brought their winemaking culture to the area in the 19th century. Le Mesnager set up vineyards in several places in the valley, including the land that is now Deukmejian Park.

The Conservancy, which includes members of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, now works in the vineyard at Deukmejian. As long as the weather is okay, all future meetings will be held at the park. The next meeting is March 26 and will cover a lot of the equipment used in the winemaking process.

“Most of the people here we know,” said William Sadler who along with his wife Jo Anne is a member of the Historical Society. “More than half of each meeting is the same people.

“It’s more [about] the people in the area and it’s great working in the vineyard because it’s part of the history here and you’re learning the whole time about different things and it’s an incentive to review the area’s history. And you really get into it when you do anything like this, you get into the history.”

The history is also important to Byles.

“You get people, number one, cognizant of what a great place Deukmejian Wilderness Park is,” said Byles. “What we’ve got up there, the vineyard, is a commemorative vineyard to celebrate the history of the Le Mesnager family in particular but [also] wine-growing history in this valley which was huge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

Later this year, Byles said the group might celebrate the end of classes by opening up the bottles that everyone will help fill up. Even though wine gets better with age, Byles said jokingly they’ll have to “force ourselves” to drink the wine.

Byles added that a big reason to have the class is for those who want to practice what they’ve been taught.

“Also, it’s just the simple practicality of being able to make their own wine when they want to,” he said.

Just as long as that La Crescenta snow doesn’t get in the way.